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MRIS, Dec. 1, 2008-The majority of real estate agents today have web sites that they use to market their business online. There are many different web site solutions available today, and some brokers also offer free websites to their agents.

However, now that almost all real estate agents have websites, it’s become a challenge to make your website, and your business, stand out. There are so many real estate sites, including agent sites as well as sites like Trulia and Zillow, that consumers have tons of choices. So how do you attract more consumers to your site?

As part of the research for the HomesDatabase 2.0 project, MRIS worked with a market research firm and held a consumer focus group to find out what consumers looked for in a real estate web site. The market research firm worked with MRIS to screen members of the public and find people that were beginner, intermediate, and advanced internet users for the focus group that had used the internet for at least one real estate transaction.

We asked consumers what they looked for when they looked for real estate sites. The top answer, by far, was “completeness” of data. Many of the consumers said that they found it frustrating when web sites didn’t show property addresses. So although some agents today still don’t like to display property addresses on their websites that can be a turn-off to consumers.

By far, the most important thing is to make sure that all text on your website is free of spelling errors, grammatical errors and typos. This may seem basic, but there are real estate sites that have problems like these.

On a more advanced level, what you say about yourself also matters. Most Realtors list their accomplishments and awards on the “About Me” section of their website. After all, you do want your site visitors and potential clients to know how qualified and experienced you are. But there are better ways to mention your qualifications than just listing them. Dakno Marketing’s Real Estate Web Design and Marketing Blog gives some great examples of more creative and natural ways to make your qualifications known while still creating a personal connection with your site visitors.

“Elena knows her audience and she effectively connects with moms and dads in a very emotional way. Notice how she weaves testimonials and success stories in her about page? Elena was even smart enough to add those great geographic keywords for her market – AWESOME! Combining those strategies is a great approach and enhances her SEO too!”

Dakno also recommends spotlighting the success of your past clients, talking directly to the reader, and making your page personal by focusing on how you can help potential clients. Read their blog post for more great information.

Dakno also provides some really great information on Search Engine Optimization (also called SEO). This is another key factor in getting your page to show up higher in search engine results.

In their web page about SEO, Dakno discusses the value of including keywords relevant to your market. This goes hand in hand wit the geographic keywords mentioned in the quote above. If your real estate market is the Washington DC area, include keywords relevant to that market, such as access to Metro and other forms of public transportation, proximity to Georgetown and other popular neighborhoods, as well as nearby restaurants and local attractions. This makes your website more likely to appear near the top of search results when people search for information on Washington DC real estate. DROdio Real Estate does a great job of mentioning their local market area on their website. They list the states they work in, as well as several cities within each state.

It’s also important to keep in mind that although many agent website solutions offer pre-written content, that won’t be as helpful to your site in terms of SEO as original content would be. For example, of Company A offers an agent website solution that comes with thousands of pre-written articles about real estate, buying and selling, then if two or three hundred other agents in your state also use that solution, they will be getting the exact same content that you are getting. Because so many other agents will have the exact same content that you have, this actually hurts your website’s chances of showing up toward the top of the search results since so many other sites have the exact same content.

In addition, these pre-written articles are usually very generic so that they can be used by agents all over the country. Company A doesn’t just sell its product in your state, but in several other states and markets across the country, so their articles are very unlikely to include references to your location or establish you as an expert in your market.

So we’ve established that it’s important to make sure you have original content on your site that talks about your market. It’s also important to have a steady stream of original content on your site. The more you write about your neighborhood and market, the better the chances of your site coming up towards the top of a search for real estate in your market.

But not everyone has time to write a lot of articles about their local market. Good news – blogging is a great way to write short articles about your local area and keep a steady stream of original content on your site. Blog posts are great because the shorter, the better. If a potential client looks at a blog post and sees a long article, they are not likely to read it. But if they see a short article that they can read in just a few minutes and provides useful local information, they are far more likely to read that blog post and come back to your blog again.

And it’s easy to find topics for short blog posts – local attractions, school information, HOA meetings, parks, sports teams, shopping centers, etc. You should also include posts on market conditions, such as recent sales, days on market reports, etc. This establishes you as an expert in your local market, which attracts potential clients to your web site and keep them coming back.

MRIS offers an Internet Marketing Strategies seminar which discusses these ideas in greater detail. If there currently aren’t any seminars scheduled for your area, please feel free to request one.

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